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What is Chlamydia Trachomatis?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2016
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Chlamydia trachomatis is a human pathogen that causes the sexually transmitted disease (STD) known as chlamydia. Individuals who acquire this bacterial-based infection often remain asymptomatic in the initial stages of infection, meaning they experience no discernible signs or symptoms, allowing for the unsuspected transmission of the infection to others. Treatment for chlamydia trachomatis involves the administration of an antibiotic medication. If left untreated, Chlamydia trachomatis can cause serious complications and, in some cases, may lead to blindness.

Individuals diagnosed with chlamydia have been exposed to the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis through intimate contact with an infected individual. Considering the infection may initially settle in one’s system without presenting any symptoms, it is possible for individuals to have an active infection without realizing it. In some cases, it is not uncommon for exposure to Chlamydia trachomatis to result in the development of lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), another type of STD that presents with lymph node inflammation, genital lesions and fever.

The presence of Chlamydia trachomatis is generally determined with the administration of a simple laboratory test. Individuals with a suspected infection may undergo a urinalysis to check for markers indicative of chlamydia. A swab test may also be conducted, which involves the collection of cervical, urethral or anal discharge that is submitted for laboratory analysis to confirm or discount the presence of a Chlamydial infection.

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Often, an early-stage Chlamydial infection will not present with any symptoms. The incubation period for symptom development can vary by the individual, but most cases present within a month of exposure. Symptomatic individuals may develop abdominal discomfort and pain during urination. It also is not uncommon for a cervical, urethral or anal discharge to present once an individual becomes symptomatic. Prompt and appropriate treatment is essential at the first sign of Chlamydial trachomatis symptom development to ensure a good prognosis.

If symptoms are ignored, a variety of serious complications may develop. Adversely affecting one’s immunity, individuals with an active Chlamydial infection are at an increased risk for acquiring other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and diseases, including gonorrhea and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Considering Chlamydial discharge is itself infectious, symptomatic individuals should avoid touching delicate mucus membranes, such as the eyes, after coming into contact with discharge secretions due to the risk of spreading the infection and blindness. Additionally, an untreated infection may also lead to infertility and the development of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Chlamydia trachomatis is generally treated with the administration of an antibiotic medication. Individuals are encouraged to take a prescribed antibiotic in its entirety to ensure the Chlamydial infection is eliminated from their system. Women are often instructed to either limit or eliminate douching due to the adverse effect it has on the naturally-occurring vaginal bacteria that aid with fighting infection.

It is essential that the partners of individuals who are treated for an active infection likewise receive treatment to prevent recurrent reinfection. Those who are treated for Chlamydia trachomatis are often encouraged to adopt safe sex practices, such as regularly using condoms, to reduce their chances for reinfection and exposure to other forms of STI and STD. Regular STD screening is recommended for anyone who is sexually active and especially for those who engage in high risk behaviors.

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